Do you want to be a faithful man? Do you long to be a man who “stays the course” in the midst of so many who are failing? Have you known failure and now you are determined to make the best of a second chance? I assume that the answer to any of the above questions, which are applicable to you, is “yes” since you are reading through this article.
The question that follows is: how can you be that kind of man? Is it related to “what I do” or “who I am?” Oftentimes, such a question leads to a discussion of priorities. We have probably heard of the paradigm: #1—God, #2—family, #3—ministry, and #4—vocation. It is a helpful paradigm, but it emphasizes a more dutiful approach to life (where you spend your time). This paradigm naturally leads to a struggle of how much of your time to give to God, to family, to ministry, and to vocation. It creates a struggle because #4 on the list is often #1 in the amount of time it requires. It becomes a percentage game and the ultimate result is a busy life as you scurry around to meet each of the demands on your time. Those who are successful are those who can be the most productive at balancing the extreme demands. In the end, however, it is a recipe for failure or frustration for most men.
Well, what is the solution? I suppose that there could be many, but let me offer one for you to consider. Rather than emphasize the priorities of your life, it might be best to emphasize your identity. By keeping your identity in proper perspective, it is possible to live with the focus necessary to “stay the course” as a faithful man. This requires a paradigm shift for many, but it brings a focus that shows you how you can live as aliens and strangers in this world to the glory of God.
First and foremost, you are a CHILD of God. This is at the core of who you are. The basis for how you are to live your life is as a dependent child of God, entrusted with your Father’s business as you entrust yourself to him. There is a plethora of verses which could be used to emphasize what it means that you are a child, but a very simple one is the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer (cf. Matthew 6:9-13: Luke 11:2-4).
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Who is to be hallowed? Whose kingdom is it? Whose will is to be done? This entire prayer emphasizes the fact that you are a CHILD. You live for your Father who is in the heavens. He is God; you are not.
Of course, for this to have the proper impact, we must think rightly about God. Tozer states, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”1 Tozer states further that, if it were possible to extract from any of your minds your thoughts about God, “we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man.”2 I highly recommend the reading of this book, but I will refrain from a tangent on its truths even though they are core to this discussion. Suffice it to say, a child must have an accurate view of the Father and also have a clear understanding that he is but a child. God must be majestic, and your understanding of his majesty must grow. This is essential for you because your core identity is found in being a child. You are a CHILD of God. This identity defines all of your life. There is no identity that is more central to who you are and, as such, this identity is to define your every waking moment. It is to be the foundation of everything you say and do.
Second, you are a PRIEST, a minister who points others to God. Growing out of your core identity as a child (your relationship with God) is the truth that you are a priest (your relationships with others).3 Again, this is central to who you are and how you relate. To your wife, you are a priest. As a father, you are a priest. As a friend, you are a priest. As a neighbor, you are a priest. What do priests do? They represent people before God. You are a priest, which means you are to point others to God. 1 Peter 2:4-10 is the passage that supports this concept of the priesthood of believers, which is understood as the truth that you have direct access to God and are ministers to one another in the body (cf. Hebrews 10:19, 22; 13:15-16; Romans 12:1-2). “The pastor” is not the only minister in a body of believers. Everyone is a minister. As priests, you are to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to others, seeking to build up the body for the greater glory of God (1 Peter 2:5; Romans 12:1-2). The “one another” passages of the New Testament are rich with what it means to be a priest.4 This defines how you are to relate to others. It is an essential aspect of your identity.
At the core, you are a child first and then a priest. This identity provides the foundation for any other roles in your life. If you are married, then you are a husband. However, your role as husband is grounded in the deeper reality that you are a child; therefore, you are not only the husband of your wife, but, more importantly, the brother (in Christ) of your wife. Your role as husband is also grounded in the deeper reality that you are a priest, therefore you are not only the husband of your wife, but also, more importantly, a minister to your wife. Being a child of God and a priest to others defines at its core what it means to live as a man in this world. Having this as our focus radically transforms the way we relate to others.
If God has blessed you with children, then you are a father. Again, your role as father is defined by your core identity; therefore, if your child is a believer, then you are not only the father of the child, but, more importantly, the brother (in Christ) and a minister to your child. You are not just the authority over your child, but rather one who is dependent on God and seeking to live for his purposes as you parent your child as a minister who points your child to God. Every passage in the Bible that teaches you how to parent well is founded on your primary call as a child of God and a priest to others. Your child is first and foremost, if a believer, your brother or sister in Christ and the one to whom you have been called to be a minister. So, in your families, you are primarily a child of God and one who is seeking to minister to those entrusted to your care.
The third and final role which identifies you is WORKER. After all, God did create you to be a productive person in this world he created. However, being a child of God and a priest to others defines what it means to be a worker. Many men derive their identity from their vocation, yet, if pictured in concentric circles, vocation is the outermost circle for a man who is redeemed. To correct this is not a matter of establishing priorities (God, family, ministry, vocation), but rather understanding your core identity as a child of God and a priest to others. Even in the workplace, you are primarily a child of God and one who is seeking to minister to those around you.
So, how do you get it right? How do you juggle all of your responsibilities in the busyness of life? How do you keep your priorities right? It is not by working harder, but rather by understanding and properly living out your identity. Living in this way does not force you to maintain priorities, rather it calls you to live out your identity as a child of God and a minister to others regardless of the context in which you find yourself. Your every waking moment is to be consumed with your identity clearly being lived out. This does not mean that we will never be faced with choices that are difficult. It just means that, regardless of the choices we make, we know our identity and, therefore, how we should live.